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Time in hospital helps Wolstencroft now

Ian Wolstencroft

Ian Wolstencroft

The man in charge of Waikato Hospital’s multi-million dollar redevelopment and construction programme is in a unique position to know what makes a good hospital – he once spent a lot of time in one.

Ian Wolstencroft, 68, contracted polio at the age of 13 and spent so much time in hospitals, he became interested in how they were run.

“Before that I was probably headed for a technical career but polio changed that,” he says. “It meant I was going to have a more professional role, something more desk-bound.”

Now almost wiped out through vaccination programmes, polio is a virus that invades the nervous system. It left Ian close to paralysis and dependent on leg braces and crutches to get around. On Waikato’s sprawling campus, he uses a golf buggy to oversee the $480 million construction projects he is managing.

“I don’t think having polio has inhibited me in anything I’ve done in my professional career,” he says. “Being a chief executive gave me broad knowledge on what should be built into a hospital but I’ve also been able to concentrate as a hospital director on the needs of the disabled.”

Born in Australia, Ian began his career in hospital administration in 1963, rising to the position of chief executive at Western General Hospital in Melbourne, Victoria. During his career in Victoria he studied hospital development, amalgamated existing hospitals and oversaw the construction of new ones.

His move to New Zealand came in 1995 when he got a call from Auckland District Health Board asking him to help with the amalgamation of four of the board’s hospitals and re-organise both administrative and clinical structures at Auckland Hospital.

By 2004, when Auckland’s 1200-bed, $480 million project was nearing completion, he got a call from then-Waikato Hospital chief executive Jan White asking him to take on the job of building project manager at the Waikato campus.

It took a year just to complete the planning phase of the project. Work began in Thames in 2005.

“Waikato and Thames hospitals will be the most modern in the country as of this year and that will last another 40 years or so,” he says, “although it’s hard to predict what a hospital will look like in 40 years. Technology changes everything but the need for ward accommodation will always be there.”

The Waikato campus redevelopment is expected to be fully complete by 2013. It includes a new emergency department, due for completion at the end of this year and expected to open in February next year, as well as the building of 101 beds above it, expected to be finished the following July. The hospital’s new clinical centre is due to open in 2013 and another carpark building is being built on Pembroke St.

Ian is proud of what the hospital has achieved so far.

“I think the development will certainly be easier for staff to work in because they will have a new facility and new technology,” he says. “I think they’ll enjoy coming to work a bit more.”

And his job doesn’t finish there. He is heavily involved with Waikato Hopsital’s Toward2020 programme, a $230 million redevelopment and construction project that will see all the old wards on the Waiora Waikato campus replaced as well as other renovation work. It has a completion timeframe of 2025.

When he is not working, Ian does “tractoring things” at his horse farm in Pukekawa which wife Nicky runs as a business. And while the responsibilities of the projects he oversees might seem stressful, Ian loves the work.

“This has been a fantastic career,” he says.


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